Santa Teresa Costa Rica Real Estate
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Buying Property in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

What Categories of Land Exist Under Costa Rican Law?

When buying property in Costa Rica, it is important to understand the different types of properties that exist and the rules that apply to each of these.

In Part One of this blog post we will provide you with a brief introduction to the different categories of Titled Land that you will come across in the Santa Teresa area.

In future blog posts we will be dealing with the different categories of Untitled Land (such as beachfront property and government (or IDA) land), as well as discussing ‘Clouded Title’ – where land may have limitations or title issues.

If you would like more information on these or on any other topic relating to real estate in Costa Rica – give us a call on +506 2640 0056 or stop by the office for a chat (located at the Plaza Kahuna in Santa Teresa).

Surf Hotel For Sale in Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa Surf Hotel

Part One – Titled Property

Most property in Costa Rica is Titled Property.  Property Titles, as well as any encumbrances or easements associated with them, are registered in the National Registry (Registro Nacional).  The records of the Registry serve as ultimate proof of ownership, and can be easily accessed by the public via the Internet (

Title abstracts are obtained in person from the National Archives (Archivo Nacional).  Plat Maps are obtained from the National Plat Map Registry (Catastro).

What you can build on titled property depends upon where it is located.  There are some general rules, which we set out for you below.  However, to know what restrictions and limitations apply to a specific piece of land it is important to ask the seller to obtain a Certificate of Land Use (Uso de Suelo) from the local Municipality.

The Uso de Suelo is effectively a Zoning Certificate that sets out the allowed usage of the property and building limitations – such as minimum property size, set backs, maximum building height, maximum building footprint, etc.

Incredible Sunset View Property in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Incredible Sunset View Property in Santa Teresa Costa Rica


Generally speaking, titled land that is located on a public road can be built up to 70% of the square meterage of the property.  For example – if the land size is 1,000m2, you would be permitted to build up to 700m2 of construction.  (Again, to know the exact percentage of the property that can be built it is important to ask the seller for a Uso de Suelo from the Municipality).

If you are planning a commercial venture – such as a restaurant, a hotel, etc. – then the land that you purchase must be located on a Public Road.  A commercial enterprise cannot legally be located on a private road.

The minimum lot size for properties located on a Public Road is 120m2 (or 90m2 if there is public sewage infrastructure – which there is not in Santa Teresa), with a minimum road frontage requirement of 6 meters.


Beautiful Sunrise View House for Sale in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Beautiful Sunrise View House Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Land that is located on a Servidumbre de Paso (or a Private Access Easement) has similar rules to land that is located on a Public Road.  Usage is generally 70% (but insist upon a Uso de Suelo to be certain), minimum size is 120m2, with a minimum road frontage of 6 meters.  The major difference is that you cannot set up a commercial enterprise on a Servidumbre de Paso.


You will find a lot of Agricultural Easements in our town (Servidumbres Agrícolas).  This is due to the fact that the land in our area used to be primarily farm and pasture land.

The rules that pertain to properties located on Agricultural Easements are different:

  • The minimum lot size is 5,000m2
  • You can only build up to 15% of the land size (which is still a lot of construction!)
  • You can only build two structures maximum
  • Again, the property cannot be used for a commercial venture

We hope that this post is helpful.  We will be providing more information on buying property in Costa Rica on our blog over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!  Or send us a message if you would like to discuss any of these topics in further detail.


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